The Family Court

Overview of the Family Court

What types of cases does the Family Court deal with?

Family Court Act 1980, s 11

The Family Court deals with lots of family law issues, including:

What’s it like in the Family Court?

Family Court Act 1980, ss 10, 12A

The Family Court Act requires the Family Court to be less formal than other courts. The court room can sometimes be set up less formally than other courts so people can talk more freely.

The rules around evidence are also more flexible in the Family Court too. The judges are allowed to accept a wide variety of evidence, including evidence that wouldn’t be allowed in other courts.

About the judges and the court staff

Family Court Act 1980, s 5; District Court Act 2016, s 15

  • Judges – To be appointed as a Family Court judge, you need at least seven years’ experience as a lawyer, and you must also have the right training, experience and personality for dealing with family disputes.
  • Registry staff – The Family Court registry staff make some of the decisions that keep a case moving towards a final decision by a judge, for example, scheduling when the next step in the case has to be completed. The registry staff are also responsible for managing individual cases. If you have a question about your own case you should contact the staff member whose name is on any letters you’ve received from the Family Court about your case.
  • Family Court Coordinator – The coordinator can give you information about the court and its services. They also communicate with other people involved in Family Court processes such as specialist report writers (for example, psychologists), social workers and lawyers appointed for children. Most Family Courts have a coordinator. If it’s a smaller Family Court that doesn’t have one, the court manager will be able to help you.
  • Kaiārahi – This is a new role for the Family Court, announced in April 2021. Kaiārahi are Family Court navigators that work in the community to give you information about the Family Court process and the different options you have when you take an issue to the Family Court. To get in touch with a kaiārahi, you can contact your nearest Family Court.

Did this answer your question?

Parents, guardians and caregivers

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online:

Access the free “Pregnancy Rights: Your legal options before and after pregnancy” booklet, here. This booklet contains practical answers to questions about pregnancy and the law, and includes information on sexual health and consent, options after a positive pregnancy test, healthcare, education, housing and more.
Email for a hard copy:
Phone: Community Law Wellington and Hutt Valley – 04 499 2928

Family Court

The Family Court website covers many topics discussed in this chapter, including how the family court works, care of children, adoption and paternity.


New Zealand Law Society

The Law Society has helpful information on what happens with children when parents separate.


Inland Revenue

Inland Revenue’s Child Support webpage has a wide range of forms and guides for parents and caregivers.

Phone: 0800 221 221

Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Supervised Contact Services (ANZASCS)

The ANZASCS website has information about supervised contact and lists contact details for approved providers of supervised contact services.


Alternative Dispute Resolution

There are many kinds of “alternative dispute resolution” that, depending on your personal situation, may be cheaper and more successful than going to the Family Court. These include counselling, mediation and negotiation. The following list is not exhaustive:

Resolution Institute:
Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand Inc (AMINZ):
Family Works:

Oranga Tamariki/Ministry for Children

Oranga Tamariki’s website has information about the adoption process.

Phone: 0508 326 459

Department of Internal Affairs

The DIA website has information on how to obtain original birth certificates for adopted children.


Registering your child’s birth

The Smartstart website allows you to register your baby’s birth online.


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